CHARLESTON – Charleston attorney Joanna I. Tabit has been appointed as a Circuit Judge for Kanawha County.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin made the announcement Thursday. Tabit will fill the vacancy created by the retirement of former Circuit Court Judge Paul Zakaib, who served as Kanawha Circuit Judge for nearly three decades.
"Judge Zakaib has been a pillar of the Kanawha County courts for more than 25 years, and his commitment to serving the people of Kanawha County will be remembered for years to come," Tomblin said in a statement. "As Joanna takes on her new role as Circuit Judge, I'm confident her experience and talents will serve her and the people of Kanawha County well."
Tabit said she is ready for the job.
"What I plan to do is what I've pledged to do," Tabit said Thursday. "I will work hard. I will be fair. I will issue rulings.
I guess people might consider it as a trial run. I'm going to be back out there two years pursuing the job."
The appointment is to fill the remainder of Zakaib's term, which ends in 2016. Tabit said she will be on the ballot.
She first ran for the position in 2000. She planned to run again in 2008, but didn't when all incumbent judges ended up filing to run.
Right now, there isn't a definite timetable for her taking the bench.
"I need to wrap up some things here at Steptoe & Johnson," Tabit said. "I want to take care of my obligations, but I'm very excited to get over there as soon as I can and get to work. I look forward to continuing Judge Zakaib's wonderful legacy of service to Kanawha County.
"I am incredibly thankful to the governor for this opportunity. There were a lot of well-qualified applicants for this job."
Tabit was one of 13 attorneys who filed to replace Zakaib. Earlier this week, the Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission narrowed that list to four and submitted it to Tomblin.
Besides Tabit, the others on that list were Webster Arceneaux III, an attorney with Lewis Glasser Casey & Rollins; Gary Pullin, an attorney with Pullin Fowler Flanagan Brown & Poe; and Lisa Tackett, director of the state Division of Family Court Services.
Zakaib, 81, resigned this summer. He retired at the end of August, but he was appointed as a senior status judge by the state Supreme Court until Tomblin appoints a replacement.
Others who originally had applied were Dan Greear, Richard Lindtroth, Leah Perry Macia, Erica Mani, Benjamin Mishoe, John Mitchell Jr., Richard Monahan, Charles Francis Woods Saffer and Walton Shepherd III.
A graduate of Marshall University and West Virginia University College of Law, Tabit began her law career in 1986 as a personal law clerk to Thomas E. McHugh of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. Tabit's legal experience also includes overseeing operations of the Appellate Division for the Office of the Attorney General of West Virginia and serving as a member of Steptoe & Johnson.
She also has worked as an adjunct professor, teaching oral and written appellate advocacy, to second- and third-year law students at the West Virginia University College of Law.
Tabit's past community service includes serving in a number of capacities for YWCA of Charleston, City of Charleston Human Rights Commission, Project Teach, and Literacy Volunteers of America.